Education charity seeks merger amid funding crisis

Skillforce, based in Nottinghamshire, says it has been squeezed by declining school funding and the impact of Brexit on corporate giving

A national education charity with almost 100 staff has issued an appeal for a merger or acquisition to stave off funding pressures.

The Nottinghamshire-based SkillForce, of which has the Duke of Cambridge is a patron, is reliant on income from its schools services and fundraising from companies, trusts and foundations.

The charity said in a statement that its funding had been squeezed by a crisis in schools funding and the impact of Brexit on corporate giving.

The charity, which has 95 employees, avoided insolvency in 2015 through the development of the Prince William Award, an educational programme for six to 14-year-olds, but the charity said that recent pressures had made its fundraising income "extremely challenging and unpredictable".

According to the Charity Commission website, the charity had an income of £4.7m in the year to 31 March 2018 and spent £4m.

The business recovery and insolvency firm Smith Cooper has been brought in to seek a buyer or merger, and the charity will continue to operate in the meantime.

The charity had already introduced cost-saving measures and undergone a restructure, the statement from SkillForce said.

Ben Slade, chief executive of SkillForce, said: "We are devastated that, despite an immense amount of hard work from everyone at SkillForce since 2015, we find ourselves in such a challenging position, which means we simply cannot continue to operate as we currently do.

"It is now my greatest hope that the charity and its award programmes can live on through a merger or acquisition. For me, ongoing support for our beneficiaries and continued employment for our staff have to be the priorities."

Dean Nelson, head of business recovery and insolvency at Smith Cooper, said: "At the moment our attention is focused on finding a suitable purchaser for the business so that we’re able to secure the future of SkillForce and enable the continuation of its legacy supporting young people and ex-forces personnel in local communities."

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